The first shove is a gentle nudge, a suggestion. The second is much harder. "Dammit, just move, will you?"
Jack turns, peering over the large rump of the horse he's trying to move, spotting one of the other members of the cleanup crew. Dale, about ten years his junior and way too chipper for two in the morning.
"More like a cattle prod," Jack says with a grumble.
Dale laughs. "That's Apollo. Stubborn as all hell. You gotta give him a stern look to let him know you mean business. Eventually he'll get to know that you won't put up with his shit."
Jack just gives Dale a wry smile. Apparently his well-honed intimidation techniques might work on potential terrorists and traitors to the U.S. government, but not on a fucking horse.
"I'll move him out to the paddock," Dale says, holding out his hand for the lead rope, which Jack's all too eager to toss over. "Sure you don't want the light on in here?"
Jack shakes his head. "Burnt out. That's something else I gotta fix, once I shovel this place out. The light from outside's fine."
It takes Dale an appallingly short amount of time to get Apollo moving, and Jack turns toward the corner where he'd propped his pitchfork. Then, behind him, the stall gate swings shut with a metallic ring.
Metal scraping on metal, footsteps on the concrete floor of the hallway, always dark inside, always light outside, the smell of sweat and blood and urine and feces close around how so he hardly even notices it anymore--
His hand touches concrete behind him as he pushes himself into the corner, pressing his back against the wall. It takes a moment before he realizes it isn't concrete immediately under his feet, that the sounds outside aren't the voices of guards or the cries of prisoners.
Realizing just where he is--or more importantly, where he isn't--he steps away from the wall, his knees feeling watery. Even though the stall is much larger than the cell he'd spent almost two years of his life in, it feels as though the walls are closing in; as though he can't breathe in here.
Jack pushes his way out of the stall, making a quick right and heading for the arena's exit door, barely noticing whether anyone sees him. He needs out, the larger space of the hallway not helping relieve the tightness in his chest or the creeping panic.
He's almost sprinting when he hits the bar on the door and it flies open.